Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Look! Up In The Sky! It's...wait, who's THAT guy?!? (What I'd Like to Play pt.4)

The two greatest Super Hero RPG's ever IMO.

After a slight pause due to a mild manic episode followed by a more severe depression, I'm back (for now). I decided to skip the next game I planned on talking about (Ghostbusters) as the mood has passed. Instead I’m following my passion and talking about a couple of games I actually DO feel like playing.

When I was first starting out as a RPG’er back in ’82, after my intro via B/X D&D, my first true love was Champions. After being introduced by a classmate at school it was love at first sight. I had been a big comic fan as a kid, and the chance to make my OWN heroes as playable characters in my favorite genre was mind boggling to 12 year old me.

That Christmas my parents and I rode a bus across town to the Drowsy Dragon (RIP) to get my own copy (same edition as seen above left) as my present that year. One of the greatest presents I ever got. (Right up there with the Mego “Batman & Robin” action figures I got when I was 5 & the “Six Million Dollar Man” action figure when I was 6 or 7).

Supers was my genre of choice, & Champions my game of choice (though TBH in those days there wasn’t a huge amount of competition. Villains & Vigilantes, Superworld, & Heroes Incorporated were the only ones that I was aware of, but I had no desire to try them. Champions was the 800lb gorilla on the block of Supers gaming, and I was perfectly happy with it.

Until 1984. Imagine my shock when I walked into one of the local hobby stores and there was that bright, shiny box (as seen above right) for Marvel Super Heroes. It was from the legendary TSR. It had “official” stats for “real” characters. (Which tied in nicely to the “Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” that had just come out, and was hot stuff in my world.)

Champions got dropped like a bad habit, and thus began a brief, intense affair with MSH, running through every module TSR released and writing a fair number of our own. Eventually the novelty of running someone ELSES characters wore off, and back to Champions we went, moving up to the 4th edition hardcover when it came out.

Gerorge Perez cover FTW

Over the course of time, I’ve drifted away from Supers in general (as the cost of comics rose so blasted high, and they moved from local stores, gas stations, and so on, into specialty only stores), which also included gaming. But the genre and characters have always held a special place in my heart, and I’ve never given up on them entirely.

As I’d started evaluating other games that I might like to play besides my solo D&D hexcrawl, MSH was one of the first to get unpacked. Not for playing MARVEL characters mind you, but purely for the ease of play and character creation (one of the few downsides of Champions is both how long it takes to run large battles AND character creation, though I’m quite proficient with both, so not TOO big a deal).

One of the things I’ve waffled over is campaign setting (as always). Most of me is STRONGLY torn to do my own world. My own characters. My own background. A lot of work if you try to do it all from the beginning. I’ve been really tempted to just let it all emerge from play. But then I’m torn again.

ANOTHER part of me is tempted to drop my own characters into a “it’s always 1984-ish” MSH campaign. Focus MOSTLY on my own heroes and villains, with occasional guest stars. This temptation comes from using a system with all those characters nice and statted up. Plus it DOES have the advantage of a comfortable, familiar backdrop. Just less room to world build.

Which leads me back to Champions. Lots of looking at old stuff, seeing pics online, etc has made me majorly nostalgic for it. I’ve gotten over SOME of my reservations about difficulty (if not character creation, ESPECIALLY when considering creating new villains on the fly!). Running an original (ie not LICENCED) game like Champions opens me up more to doing my own thing, and less “playing in someone else’s sandbox”.

In ANY case, what I’d LIKE to do with EITHER game is an Superhero version of an open world, sandbox, hexcrawl. I want to play as a superhero and go out and patrol the city, fight crime, rescue people from burning buildings, almost have my secret identity discovered by my girlfriend, get yelled at by my editor-in-chief, all that good stuff. The full superhero experience.

As I’ve already gone on quite a bit as it IS, I’ll save my thoughts on THAT subject for the NEXT post. :)

1 comment:

  1. As someone running two different Champions campaigns, I have some recommendations if you really want to get going with it.

    1. "Champions Complete" is almost an ironic name, because it contains almost all the same rules as the original. What they did was strip out all the cross-references and examples, making the 240-page version much less intimidating and shorter but also harder to understand. There's a document on the Hero Games site that shows the differences between C6 and CC, and it's under one page.

    2. Additional note about Champions 6, Volume 1: If you look at the edge of the book, you'll notice a black stripe in a different place for each chapter of the book. And you would notice that the section on "Powers" takes up close to half the book. If you're running a campaign where you have to use every single power in the book simultaneously, I not only want to hear about it, I want to see the character sheets.

    3. The main Champions sourcebook (there's one specifically on their campaign world; that's not the one I'm talking about) contains a thing called "The Superhero Gallery," which features modularized character creation based on common archetypes, and contains 20–30 years of slowly learned best practices. You Need That Book for that alone, especially if you're going to introduce new players.

    4. Like GURPS, Champions is a toolbox, which means you don't have to use every single rule in the book to play a good game. You just have to use the basics, and maybe pick out a few more that add to the game's awesomeness. If you're trundling along and run across a spot that doesn't feel right, you might be ready to introduce one or two more rules to the table.